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Samuel Stroope, Mark H. Walker, Aaron B. Franzen, Stress Buffer or Identity Threat?, Society and Metal Health (XX)(X) pp. 1-20. Copyright © 2017 (American Sociological Association). Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.


Guided by the stress process tradition, complex links between religion and mental health have received growing attention from researchers. This study gauges individuals’ public and private religiosity, uses a novel measure of environmental stress—negative media portrayal of religion—and presents two divergent hypotheses: (1) religiosity as stress-exacerbating attachment to valued identities producing mental health vulnerability to threat and (2) religiosity as stress-buffering social psychological resource. To assess these hypotheses, we analyze three mental health outcomes (generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and general mental health problems) in national U.S. data from 2010 (N = 1,714). Our findings align with the stress-buffering perspective. Results show that individuals low in public and private religiosity tend to have worse mental health with greater negative media portrayal. High public or private religiosity tends to nullify the relationship between negative media portrayal and mental health.